On April 19, 2021 the BC government announced it has introduced Bill 3 which if passed would amend the Employment Standards Act to provide full-time and part-time workers with up to three hours of paid leave to get each dose of their COVID-19 vaccine. A press release announcing the introduction of Bill 3 is accessible here.
The BC government consulted with the business community, labour organizations, indigenous partners, and other stakeholders in developing the new legislation. The government explains the purpose of the legislation is to ensure employees do not have to choose between losing wages and obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine.
As currently drafted, the legislation will apply retroactively to all vaccine leaves requested from April 19, 2021 onwards. As with other statutory leaves arising under the Act, paid vaccine leave will not be discretionary but rather must be granted to an employee if they qualify for it and request the leave.
Similar to the COVID-19 leave introduced under the Act in 2020, Bill 3 further provides that an employer may request reasonably sufficient proof that the employee is entitled to the leave. An employer cannot require a medical note for this purpose, but could require proof of a vaccination appointment.
Finally, the legislation sets out a formula for determining an employee’s average hourly wage for purposes of determining the wages an employee is entitled to for their 3 hour vaccine leave. Similar to the existing formula under the Act for statutory holiday pay, the paid COVID-19 vaccine leave will take into account the wages earned by the employee over the prior 30 calendar days, less any overtime earned, in calculating the employee’s average hourly wage.
Bill 3 had its first reading in the Legislative Assembly on April 19, 2021, and its second reading on April 20, 2021. We will provide a further update if and when the legislation receives royal assent.
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